THE YEAR THAT WAS: 2020
- December 31, 2020
- Denise Lee
Hello, it’s me. Yes, I am very much alive and well (mostly).
There are so many things going through my head as I’m writing down my thoughts on a rainy afternoon this New Year’s Eve. I don’t usually leave my reflection posts to the last minute but the truth is, I haven’t been writing much at all, especially in the second half of this year. If there are grammar mistakes and typos in this post, please accept my apologies in advance. I initially didn’t plan to write a summary of this year in the first place but too much has happened and I think it’s important that I remember 2020 for what it was — the year that broke me and reshaped my being.
If I had to describe the year 2020 in short, I would use the term “shit storm” for many reasons. All 12 months felt like it was just dragging on. And I’m just exhausted at this point. Truth be told, it’s been hard to write this year. Even doing this is excruciating. It almost feels like this year has squeezed out every ounce of energy left in my body. As crazy as the year has been, it has also been a year of resets and redefining myself. But I think nothing I say will make sense unless I begin at the start. So let’s try to just sort out the mess in my head one step at a time.
The year started off slow. I was still trying to navigate the whole “trauma” thing. It wasn’t as brutal as the last quarter of 2019 but I had my moments. But there was another storm brewing that would change the course of my life forever. My birthday came and went like the wind. I was happy but melancholic at the same time. There was always something nagging at the back of my mind and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. By the time March rolled around, I was at a weird place. So I tendered my resignation to finally fulfil my dream of becoming a full-time freelance writer. What a scary place to be. Because that was the month when the world literally came crashing down from the COVID-19 virus. Malaysia went into lockdown for 3 months — I didn’t get to see my family, my relationship was holding on by a thread, my future in limbo as I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after I serve my notice.
I thought that those 3 months were the worst months but oh how wrong I was. If anything, the first half of 2020 was the easy part. I started freelancing full-time in May and while the jobs were slow, they came in steadily. And then June happened. The person whom I saw forever with told me that he could no longer commit to a relationship — the weekend after we celebrate our first anniversary. It plummeted quickly and within 3 weeks, I found myself picking up broken pieces of myself on the floor. It was a difficult breakup. He wouldn’t call it off while I wanted to fight for us. Eventually, I had to make the hard decision to walk away. It wasn’t my choice but it also wasn’t my fault. The nights were haunting and the days went by slow. This breakup was like no other. Tears would stream down at random hours of the day and more often than not, I was caught unaware. I’ve never felt such searing pain in my life. Not even from the trauma. Writing became a non-remedy and I found myself speechless for the first time in my life. What was there left to say? There were no words to articulate the torment that I was going through.
My mum had to journey with me through this immeasurable agony. My friends took turns, showing up at my doorstep, taking me out to dinner, praying for me, distracting me, making sure I was okay. If got a dollar for every time I broke down this year, I’d be a lot richer. Most days, I felt like a sailor lost at sea clinging onto the lifebuoy. Or rather, I was a literally a boat that was floating without an anchor. On other days, I felt like I was sinking and there was no way back to the surface. Prayer and worship became my medicine — day and night I played the same 4 worship songs on Spotify and held onto my Bible. For months I sang/listened to Promises and Highlands until I fell asleep each night, my pillows drenched in tears. Every morning when I opened my eyes, I felt like I was going into battle. The fight was within myself and I was determined to win. However long it would take.
Eventually, the days got easier to live through. I was healing, slowly but surely. I threw myself into work, tiring my body out. After months of doubting myself, I got back on the bike — at a different gym with an instructor that didn’t know my name. Then I found the courage to step into Tribe for my first boxing class, completely alone but so liberated at the same time. I told no one until I completed that class. I decided since then that I would no longer wait for someone to step into unknowns with me. I am capable of doing it myself. If you know me well, you’d be shocked to learn that I have been working out consistently since October — doing a variety of spin, boxing, barre and pilates — and you can now see my biceps when I flex. I’ve never been or felt stronger. And I feel so much healthier.
I have also grown two small businesses over the last 6 months. The first being my heart and soul since 2007, THEMISSNISE, which is now a registered enterprise! Freelancing was something that I was so afraid of doing but I thank God every day that this kept me busy and sane in the months that followed the breakup as I dove into building my brand from the ground up. I am grateful for the support and clients that have come my way — some of the projects that I get to be involved in are just absolutely mindblowing, you have no idea. The second is my love for food manifested as I focused most of my energy building up Delish Eats together with my mum. December was a historic month for us as we cooked and baked almost 60 lasagnas and brownies each, bringing some Christmas love and joy into the homes of our customers and friends. These two babies will be my focus in 2021.
I won’t sugarcoat anything because the reality is, 2020 was devastating for me. It was horrid and painful and no negative word can describe the gravity of how bad things were for me. But 2020 was also such a blessed, amazing, only-God-can year. So I am a bag of mixed emotions as I look back in hindsight. There were so many moments where it did not feel like it was well with my soul. But there were more moments where God showed up. Again and again, He showed up. The last year has been full of disappointments and victories, pain and growth, disasters and miracles. He saved me from a potentially disastrous long-term relationship, but more importantly, He saved me from myself. Oh to think where I would be if not for His saving grace.
While I do hope for the new year to be better and brighter, I know that I am also still human and my healing will continue to be a part of my journey in the next few months. I’m not in a hurry, but I know that after this year, I will now live my life the way I want to and to trust that God is in control. The old version of me no longer exists. What you have in front of you is a broken but determined Denise. New challenges, refreshed faith. I will praise Him on the mountains, and in the valleys all the same.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43: 18-19
He shows up.
He brings hope in hopeless situations.
He’s got us.
And it will be okay. Not always, but it will be okay.
Happy New Year, you.
I pray that He will guide your steps and mine to have more of Him and less of us in our lives.